Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stadium blowing in the wind

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Among the lessons of the still-unfinished Investors Group field is this -- there is no such thing as a fixed price. The public was told it would cost $190 million, which might possibly have been true, but only if every design detail and contingency was properly planned.

Even the private sector can spend more than the fixed price on a particular project, but usually there's a good reason and a sound explanation. Otherwise, it's off to court they go.

In the case of the new stadium, details about cost overruns have come out in dribs and drabs, and never with a good explanation.

No one, for example, seems to know why the press box was not enclosed or why the stadium was designed without access to the field for fans, a real problem during concerts.

Sure, some details will be missed in the final design phase on complex projects, but these weren't minor omissions.

No one, of course, seems to be responsible. It's just one of those things, we're told.

It's still not clear who will pay the roughly $14 million in cost overruns, but obviously it should be the community, whatever that is.

The city says it's not responsible, and the province probably feels the same way, as does the Winnipeg Football Club and the University of Manitoba.

Ultimately, the bills will be paid and the show will go on, but the clumsy way the new stadium was planned leaves a bad taste because it is just the latest in a series of public projects gone astray.

The cost of converting the former Canada Post building into a new police headquarters, for example, has risen to $155 million from $127 million in just two years -- and it's not over yet. The decision to buy and renovate the building was made after the cost of renovating the Public Safety Building kept rising like a rocket.

Previous audits have shown city hall is not particularly adept at planning and building major projects, but as the stadium saga shows, public-sector expertise doesn't get much better when you put two or three government heads together.

Finally, was it really windy days and the undulating roof that delayed completion by one year? Inquiring minds want to know.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2013 A8

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